Historical development of the Bassoon - Philipp Dangas

Historical development of the Bassoon

Bassoon graphic can be enlarged. It is Link-Sensitive [Clickable].

Short description: bassoon in small representation

The bassoon evolved from the shawms of the Renaissance like the members of the oboe family. However, its development took place in a different way from that of the oboes, which are to be regarded as the direct successors of the shawms, whose basic structural characteristics they still possess today. In their original form, all shawm instruments had a straight tube.

The bass instruments of this family - the Bomharte or the Pommer - were therefore of extraordinary length. The tube of the Great Bass Pomeranian was about 10 feet, i.e. a good 3 meters long. In order to be able to eliminate this awkwardness, in the 16th century the external length of these instruments was shortened by bending or multiple drillings. As a result, the instruments became more manageable and got by with 2 keys, which resulted in a change in the sound of the instrument. His tones were not always rough and hoarse like those of the Bomharte, but soft and pleasant.

The most famous manufacturer of these instruments was the Nuremberg instrument maker Siegmund Snitzer († 1578). In the 17th century, the instrument received its current specific structure consisting of several tube parts, i.e. the U-shaped piece drilled out was shortened. At this time, the name bassoon came into being and, as is generally accepted today, from the Italian "il fagotto" ("the bundle" - the individual reed parts are put together like a bundle). Both the terms "the" bassoon and "the" bassoon were common. Today one only says "the bassoon".

In the 19th century the bassoon was significantly improved. Among the German instrument makers, Heinrich Grenser from Dresden and his successor Wiesner, as well as Haseneier in Koblenz, should be mentioned first. The most successful was the Nassau bassoonist and chamber musician Carl Almenräder († 1843), who worked eleven years (1824-1835) to devise the structure of today's bassoon.

He first connected with Schott in Mainz and from 1831 on with J. Adam Heckel in Biebrich, with whom he founded the well-known Heckel company on March 11, 1831. Among the French instrument makers who contributed to the development of the bassoon in the 19th century were Triébert, F.G.Adler (†  1854) and Jean-Nic.Savari, who manufactured bassoons with excellent sound in the 1820s and 1830s, both in Paris, to name. Like all wind instruments, the bassoon was initially built for choirs, i.e. in different tunings. A distinction was made in the 16th and 17th centuries:

  1. Descant bassoon: (pitch range → g-c2)
  2. Alto or tenor bassoon: (pitch range → G-f1)
  3. Chorist bassoon: (pitch range → C-d1)
  4. Double bassoon, namely
    • Fourth bassoon: (pitch range → G1-f)
    • Fifth bassoon: (pitch range → F1-es)
  5. Contrabassoon: (pitch range → C1-d)
Sound example of the bassoon [music by Shostakovich, Dmitri] Download size: 198 kilobytes
The Use of the Bassoon in Music
Music composer's Work Style of music
Nikos Skalkottas Quartet for piano, oboe, bassoon and trumpet No. 1 A/K 40 Chamber music
Dmitri Dmitrijewitsch Schostakowitsch Symphony No. 9 in E flat major, opus 70 Orchestra
Ludwig van Beethoven 9th Symphony in D minor opus 125 Orchestra
Igor Fjodorowitsch Strawinski Le sacre du printemps Orchestra
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart The Marriage of Figaro Opera